prescription bottle with pills abused in utah

For the past few decades, prescription drug abuse has been a serious social problem in the state of Utah. The misuse and over-use of painkillers create a significant portion of this problem. From 2000 to 2015, research showed a four-fold increase in prescription-drug-related deaths. 

In 2016 alone, 117,000 Utah residents were known to use prescription pain relievers in unintended ways. This figure comes from research from the National Surveys on Drug Use and Health conducted by SAMHSA. 

Undoubtedly, a portion of this public health crisis is due to overprescribing.  Utah doctors tend to prescribe opioids at a much higher rate than the nationwide average. In 2018, physicians in Utah prescribed opioids for 57.1 out of every 100 people. Nationally, the rate is only 51.4.  

Prescription drug abuse has an impact on the prevalence of illegal drugs, as well. Roughly 80% of heroin users begin by abusing prescription medications.  

The common transition from prescription painkillers to hard drugs is borne out by the data. The number of heroin-related deaths has been increasing over the last few decades. In the year 2000, there were fewer than 150 drug-related deaths in Utah. In 2018, there were 437 such deaths

If you have been accused of selling prescription drugs, do not wait. Contact a qualified defense attorney as soon as possible.  

What Is Prescription Drug Abuse?

Prescription drug abuse occurs when people use medications in ways that are not intended by the doctor who wrote the prescription. This type of abuse includes taking medicines for pain relief in ways that were not intended. It also includes grinding and snorting pain medications for recreational purposes. 

Prescription drug abuse can occur in a variety of contexts. For instance, opioids, anti-anxiety drugs, and stimulants all present the possibility of abuse.   

Many types of prescription drugs are addictive when they are taken in unintended ways. Certain types of early interventions can be effective in preventing prescription drug addiction. 

Prescription Drugs with High Rates of Abuse

Some types of prescription drugs are abused more often than others. Of the ones with a high potential for abuse, some are very addictive. Many people begin misusing prescription drugs to relieve pain. They tend to become addicted over time unable to wien themselves with belief that the physical pain or disorder is still there.  

The most common prescription drugs with high rates of abuse include the following: 

Opioid Medications

Drugs in this category are typically prescribed for pain management. Medications that contain oxycodone, like Percocet and Oxycontin, are opioid pain medications. Norco and other drugs that contain hydrocodone also fall into this category. 

Anti-Anxiety Drugs and Other Sedatives

These drugs are usually prescribed to treat general anxiety disorders, panic disorders, major depressive disorders, and some sleep disorders. Examples of these types of prescription drugs include Xanax, Valium, and hypnotics like Ambien.  


Typically, this type of drug is used for the treatment of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and some types of sleep disorders. Examples of prescription stimulants include methylphenidate (Ritalin), dextroamphetamine with amphetamine (Adderall XR), and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine). 

Common Symptoms of Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse

When misused, each type of prescription drug can result in specific symptoms. There are three commonly abused drugs in Utah: opioid, anti-anxiety, and stimulant. 

Typical symptoms of opioid abuse include: 

  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Euphoria (high feeling)
  • Slowed rate of breath 
  • Drowsiness
  • Decreased coordination
  • Increasing dosage needed for relief of pain
  • Increasing pain sensitivity over time

There are also common symptoms of anti-anxiety medication abuse, which include: 

  • Decreased breathing rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion 
  • Difficulty walking 
  • Slurring speech
  • Decreased concentration
  • Memory problems
  • Dizziness 

Finally, common symptoms of stimulant abuse include: 

  • Heightened alertness
  • Euphoria (high feeling)
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Increased body temperature
  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety 

When drug abuse has progressed into addiction, other signs may appear. Prescription drug addiction often results in negative behavioral patterns. These can include poor decision-making, theft, or forging prescriptions. Selling prescription drugs can also correlate with addiction.

Long-Term Health Risks of Prescription Drug Abuse

The health consequences for long-term abuse of prescription drugs can be significant. When they are taken inappropriately, prescription drugs can be very dangerous. The health risks of these medications are drastically increased in certain circumstances.  

The health risks of prescription drug abuse increase dramatically when:

  • Taken in especially high doses
  • Combined with other prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs
  • Combined with illegal drugs or alcohol 

Each type of prescription drug carries specific health risks. For instance, opioid abuse can decrease the user’s blood pressure, causing them to slip into a coma. Individuals who overdose on opioids have a very high mortality rate.

woman in Utah abusing prescription drugs

The abuse of anti-anxiety medications often results in memory issues, blood pressure drops, and slowed breathing. Overdoses can result in coma or death. In addition to the symptoms of overuse, this type of prescription drug causes significant withdrawal symptoms. These include seizures and hyperactivity of the nervous system.  

Finally, long-term stimulant abuse can result in elevated blood pressure, heart issues, tremors, seizures, hallucinations, paranoia, and aggression.  

Long-term health risks can also result from a person’s increased tendency to engage in risky behavior. For example, a person with an addiction may be involved in selling prescription drugs. They may also be more likely to use other dangerous drugs.

Three Waves of Opioid Epidemics In Utah

The opioid epidemic has been a particularly damaging social trend over the past several decades. This is true nationwide, as well as in Utah specifically. For this reason, the Utah Coalition for Opioid Overdose Prevention (or UCOOP Utah) was created. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the timeline of the opioid epidemic has occurred in three waves. 

First Wave – Increased Prescriptions of Pain Medication

Beginning in the 1990s, prescription drug companies began to market opioid-based pain medications. As a result, prescriptions of these drugs rose dramatically. This led to an increase in opioid overdoses and deaths. 

Second Wave – Increased Heroin Use

Around the year 2010, heroin use and overdoses became more prevalent across the United States. Many people who became heroin users transitioned from prescription medications. Heroin shares many of the physiological effects of opioid painkillers. 

Third Wave – Rise of Synthetic Opioid Abuse

Since 2013, there has been an upsurge in the number of overdoses and deaths that involve synthetic opioids. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are incredibly potent and have a high risk of abuse. 

Contact a Trustworthy Criminal Defense Attorney 

If you have been accused of selling prescription drugs, contact a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible. Do not let your charge become a conviction. When you need help to defend against charges of prescription drug abuse in Utah, call the legal experts at Schatz Anderson.